Keir Davidson obituary | History books

My mate Keir Davidson, who has died aged 74, was a landscape designer and creator. His guides selection from the historical past of Zen gardens in Japan to an account of Coleridge’s groundbreaking Lakeland fell walks in the early 19th century.

Born in London, son of the distinguished African historian and radical journalist Basil Davidson and his wife, Marion (nee Young), a Jungian psychotherapist, Keir attended St Paul’s college, London. His hole year was expended in Zambia instructing civics to large-university college students, adopted by 4 years at Leeds trainer coaching faculty. In 1973, he moved to the Welsh Marches to assistance a buddy restore an abandoned 14th-century constructing. There he began backyard garden and design perform, while in the evenings participating in guitar with his band in regional pubs.

From 1976 to 1981 Keir lived in Japan, educating English as a international language and establishing a deep desire in Zen backyard garden design and style. His e-book Zen Gardening was revealed in 1982, adopted a year later by The Artwork of Zen Gardens. He also embarked on a extensive quest to study the everyday living of the 14th-century Japanese monk Musō Soseki. A Zen Lifetime in Character: Musō Soseki in His Gardens was lastly finished and published in 2007. He regarded it as his profoundest work.

In 1983, Keir gained a letter from a wealthy American who, obtaining read through The Artwork of Zen Gardens, needed him to renovate 1,300 bare acres in upstate New York into a artifical landscape of streams, ponds, waterfalls and trees. It was a large enterprise, long lasting 18 yrs. Throughout this time, in 1985, in New York Town, Keir achieved Linda Crockett, a nutritionist and a potter who later on became an alternative health and fitness practitioner. They married in 1988.

Keir Davidson surveying at Woburn Abbey

Soon after returning to the British isles in 1996 he started doing the job for the Russell family at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, to begin with developing and setting up a pond for the Duke of Bedford. He went on to work on the restoration of Humphry Repton’s authentic 18th-century landscape types for the household, and was inevitably provided endless access to exploration and publish Woburn Abbey: The Park and Gardens, published in 2016 and described in Country Lifestyle as “the most effective nation-residence history revealed in modern years”. Two a long time later on, in 2018, he posted O Joy for Me!, in which he retraced Coleridge’s walks in the Lake District.

At the request of the Duke of Bedford’s brother Lord Robin Russell, he continued studying the Russell family members historical past. His handsome double biography of the sixth duke and his next wife, Unbelievable Pioneers of the Passionate Age, telling of their involvement with early 19th-century developments in the arts and sciences, was published in May perhaps 2022.

Three months later on Keir was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. He died at his property at the foot of a mountain, surrounded by rocks and trees, and beside a running stream.

Keir is survived by Linda and by his brothers, Nick and Jas, and quite a few nieces and nephews.